The Daily Digest (A detailed look at GOP finances, GOP pushes changes in government, South Carolina primary looms)

MPR News did an in-depth review of the Republican Party of Minnesota’s finances and found former Chair Tony Sutton’s spending on GOP insiders is one of the reasons the party is $2 million in debt. Some of the spending includes:

-More than $1 million in payments to Trimble and Associates since 2008. Tony Trimble, who oversaw the 2008 U.S. Senate recount and the 2010 gubernatorial recount, said he only did the work party leaders requested and defended the “discounted rate” he billed the MNGOP. But Republican National Committeewoman Pat Anderson says she’s shocked by the size of the legal bills and said Trimble will no longer work for the party.

-A $14,000 bonus to the party’s executive director, Ryan Griffin, in July, 2010.

-$10,000 went to a researcher to study the efficacy of medical marijuana in September of 2010 (The heat of the 2010 race).

-$221,000 went to a Minneapolis-based public relations firm to rebrand the party. One of the people who worked on the contract was briefly hired to be the party’s communications director when Sutton was first elected chair.

-$5,000 was directed to a private investigator to study whether any election fraud occurred in 2010.

-$70,000 to GOP state Sen. David Thompson to do media consulting for the party.

Sutton told MPR News he should have curtailed spending when the fundraising was keeping pace. He said a big problem was the elimination of the Political Contribution Refund in 2009. A look at state campaign finance reports show that small donor giving dropped off dramatically since then.

Tidbit: The 14-member executive committee met late last night to discuss the party’s finances. It was the first meeting since political consultant Pat Shortridge took over as party chair. Party leaders say they agreed to do an internal review of some of the party’s expenses as they try to dissect what happened over the past two and a half years.

Republican National Committeewoman Pat Anderson tweeted that Bron Scherer has been appointed secretary-treasurer of the party.

Under the Dome

House and Senate Republicans released their vision to change how state government is run. The so-called Reform 2.0 includes several GOP policies that have been pushed in the past but also includes a few new ideas like a plan would allow for the conversion of failing public schools to charter schools and allow the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul to take control of struggling schools in their cities. Here’s a list of their suggestions.

MinnPost says Republicans were skittish on the stadium and Amy Koch’s affair.

GOP Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem says he doesn’t plan to file an ethics complaint on the Koch matter.

Lawmakers held a hearing on state worker payouts.

Minnesota state government was unable to take calls on Thursday for three hours.

Gov. Dayton appeared on Midday on Thursday. It was host Gary Eichten’s last call-in broadcast. Dayton announced on the show that today will be proclaimed “Gary Eichten Day in Minnesota.” Listen to the program here.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is suing Chicago-based Accretive Health, alleging that it failed to protect patient health care records and failed to disclose to patients how their records are used.

The child care union vote now faces a federal lawsuit.

The House swore in DFLer Susan Allen on Thursday. Senator-elect Kari Dziedzic’s swearing-in ceremony will be held today.

The DNR announced a wolf management plan.

Economy

Minnesota’s jobless rate improved to 5.7 percent in December. The biggest employment gains came in the professional and business services sector.

Financing for Essar Steel is in place.

Vikings Stadium

Stadium supporters are hoping for resolution this session.

Dayton says the Vikings would have to pay $450 million for the Basilica site.

The stadium focus is now before a divided Minneapolis City Council.

The Pi Press says Ramsey County needs a Hail Mary to get the stadium built there.

Congress

Suicides by active-duty soldiers hit an all-time high.

Google says 7 million people have signed a petition opposing SOPA.

DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar campaigned in Bemidji earlier this week.

DFL Sen. Al Franken discussed the economy and energy issues during a speech in Duluth.

GOP Rep. John Kline will hold a town hall meeting in Shakopee on Jan. 30.

Race for Congress

The DCCC announced what Minnesotans have known for quite some time: GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack (MN-8) will be a targeted candidate in 2012.

Race for President

A fiery debate ended a bizarre campaign day in South Carolina.

Rick Perry dropped out of the race and then backed Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich’s ex-wife told ABC News that Gingrich wanted an “open marriage.”

Gingrich attacked the media as he defended himself.

Gingrich paid $994,000 in taxes in 2010.

It looks like Rick Santorum, not Mitt Romney, won Iowa’s caucuses.

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is now lowering expectations for Romney in South Carolina.

Pawlenty also played the bad cop (to Romney’s good cop) by saying Gingrich’s infidelities concern him.

Eichten

MPR’s Gary Eichten is retiring today after 45 years of services at the radio station. I’m honored to have worked with him covering political issues across Minnesota. I’ll miss his laugh in the newsroom, his modesty and the standards he sets for us. I’m happy to call him my friend.

  • Ralph Crammedin

    3200 words on Tony Sutton and friends’ financial misadventures, but not a hint of Bill Cooper, Sutton’s boss, mentor, business partner and behind-the-scenes godfather of the Republican Party?

    No mention at all of Republican mogul Bill Cooper, who hired Sutton, trained him, gave Taco Tony a business income while he fronted for Cooper as head of the RPM, then cut Sutton loose when both the Party and the business foundered? Tom, either Mr Cooper did a perfect job of wiping his fingerprints from this sordid affair, or you didn’t look very hard.

  • http://http:www.mnpolticalroundtable.com Minnesota Central

    Gosh … boy did you miss something … it isn’t everyday that a Minnesotan gets recognized in a Congressional Address :

    SPEECH OF

    HON. BETTY McCOLLUM OF MINNESOTA

    IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

    WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 18, 2012

    •Ms. McCOLLUM. Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to Gary Eichten, a Minnesota broadcasting legend, as he prepares to retire after a distinguished 45-year career at Minnesota Public Radio, MPR, News.

    •It is increasingly rare today that one spends his entire career with one employer, but it is even rarer that one can say he helped to put his employer on the map. Eichten can make that claim, beginning his career in 1967 at Minnesota Public Radio as a student announcer at Collegeville’s KSJR, MPR’s first station. Today, MPR is one of the nation’s premier public radio systems with a reputation for integrity and thoughtful civic engagement. Gary Eichten personifies this tradition.

    •As host of the MPR News “Midday” program, Eichten has been a familiar and down-to-earth voice on its airwaves, providing a forum for civil discourse that truly informs and educates the public. Throughout his career, he has retained his trademark Midwestern sensibility. His colleagues sum it up best, describing him as an “everyman in the newsroom.” A recent article in the Star Tribune describes Eichten as a “kid from Mankato,” Minnesota, who “traded stories and barbs with state legislators, sitting governors and presidential hopefuls. An evasive answer might be met with Eichten’s lovable grumble: `Aw, c’mon, Senator.’ ”

    •Eichten’s success as a broadcaster has earned him many well-deserved awards, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Award for Best Local News Program. He also assisted in the development of two Peabody award-winning documentaries. In 2007, Eichten was inducted into the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting’s Hall of Fame. Most recently, Eichten was awarded with the prestigious 2011 Graven Award by the Premack Public Affairs Journalism Awards Board for his contribution to excellence in the journalism profession.

    •For many years, Eichten and MPR Midday have been part of my midday ritual. As an MPR listener, I have appreciated his timely and insightful interviews. As an elected official, I have respected his tough, but fair questions–always delivered civilly. It has been an honor to be a guest on his show. The excellent journalism practiced by Eichten and MPR is even more important today, because it has become a rarity in today’s media landscape.

    •A testament to his notable career is the “Heckuva Farewell” planned for Eichten on January 19 in St. Paul. The evening will begin with what Eichten does best, an interview, with a guest who happens to be a former Vice President–Walter Mondale. Following this interview, Eichten will have the microphone turned on himself as he is subject to an interview about his incredible career at MPR. I know Minnesotans are looking forward to this night.

    •As he retires after 45 years on Minnesota Public Radio, Eichten’s voice will be missed, but his legacy of broadcasting excellence will continue. Mr. Speaker, please join me in honoring Gary Eichten, a Minnesota icon.

    Well said, Congresswoman McCollum and THANK YOU to Gary Eichten and the entire MPR team for your great service.